A Nonsensical, Crossfit Hatin’ Orgy

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

Abraham Lincoln

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coba

I’ve lost some respect, as of late, for strength and conditioning coaches Mike Boyle and Charles Poliquin; especially so for Poliquin, and I’ll explain why in just a moment.  But first you might be wondering, just what in the bloody hell is this all about?

At this controversy’s root is the problem, from a strength and conditioning “guru’s” point of view, of there being far too little trophy game available for the relatively high number of active hunters.  That is to say, supply-and-demand and market forces are generating heated competition within the S & C community — with the resultant snarky remarks and back-biting — among folks attempting to rise to the top of the guru heap.  And who just happens to be at the top of the heap right now?  Crossfit, that’s who.  And in my opinion, deservedly so.

Note: I consider myself as objective as reasonably possible in this matter (kinda like being a Libertarian in the midst of the Republican/Democrat throw-down), however, my workout style is skewed heavily toward the Crossfit camp.  And although I don’t consider myself part of the “Crossfit nation”, I do draw extensively from their ideas, then tailor those ideas to fit my own, specialized needs.  Namely, I emphasize more of the sprint/explosive elements of Crossfit and de-emphasize the endurance elements.

So why is it that Boyle and Poliquin can’t give Crossfit its due?  Because, quite simply, in doing so, they’d have to concede a certain portion of market share — and, therefore, potential clients — and the resultant, dirty, sexy money that comes with those clients.  What’s my take on this?  Simple.  Number one, you’ve got to know where you want to be in the future, i.e., know your goal.  Number two, objectively assess your current status.  Now, from that great, universal grab-bag of ideas and knowledge, assemble your own, personal, transport system.   That system might be a Poliquin, Boyle or Crossfit-leaning system — or it may lean toward any of a dizzying number of systems.  The thing is that most all systems will work for their intended target audience.  The trick is to discern, through the fog of (intentional or unintentional) misinformation and false claims, what is right for you and your goals.

Now, ironically — and in the same article in which Poliquin dismisses Crossfit, he paraphrases one of my favorite sayings: Adopt what is useful and reject what is not.  But just how do you “know” if something is useful or not, if you refuse to lend it proper study?  This is a mind-set that I’ve never quite understood.  And it’s certainly not limited to the S & C community, either; this mid-set is prevalent in any field you choose to study.

If you have the want to, check out this podcast of Crossfit’s rebuttal of Mike Boyle’s dismissal of the Crossfit system.  It’s actually a good discussion, and not what you might think something like this would sink to — namely, a Jerry Springer-like idiot-fest.  There’s some good, high-quality information put out in this discussion.

And to be honest here, I’ve never borrowed much from Mike Boyle’s bag of tricks — I haven’t found all that much in his training philosophy that I agree with — so it was relatively easy for me to dismiss his Crossfit rant.  Not so with Charles Poliquin.  I’ve borrowed heavily from his training philosophy and I consider him — and consider him still — as being one of the most knowledgeable, effective and preeminent S&C coaches in the business.  My take on this, though, is that Poliquin has succumbed to “guru envy” in this matter.  What he won’t admit is that his pool of potential clients is small  due to specialization.  His focus is on (and should be, because he’s proven his worth here) training upper-level athletes.  He’s trying to expand that potential client pool by saying, effectively, that if it’s right for the highly-developed athlete, it is therefore, by extension, the correct prescription for the athletic-leaning, general public.  This is where I disagree with Poliquin — and where, too, I’m disappointed in his failure to, at a minimum, address this notion.

For Poliquin not to concede the efficiency and effectiveness of the Crossfit program in developing better physically-prepared policemen, firemen and armed-forces personnel (or anyone with at least some modicum of beginning fitness, for that matter) is to be either blindered by personal ambition, wilfully ignorant, or unknowledgeable of the physiological sciences.  I think everyone familiar with Charles Poliquin would say that the last two options are non-sequiturs, which leaves us with the first option — that of the ugly beast of personal ambition.  And for an otherwise respected man in his chosen field to allow personal ambition to trump the dissemination of truth, my friends, is highly, highly disappointing to me.

 

In Health,

Keith

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10 responses to “A Nonsensical, Crossfit Hatin’ Orgy

  1. Keith

    I do actually have some sympathy for those that are a little skeptical about Crossfit. They have created some great metabolic conditioning workouts and the resources (videos etc) that they have provided on the internet for free are very good. However what I think can be a bit misguided is their contention that their way is always the best way.

    In terms of basic GPP all round fitness most of their stuff is great. But I think that if you have another sport you need more and you need to focus differently. If you are looking for peak performance for athletes etc there is a need for more specialisation.

    For example Mark Twight got really into Crossfit for a while but ultimately it wasn’t enough to maintain his endurance base as he discusses here:

    http://www.gymjones.com/knowledge.php?id=8

    http://www.gymjones.com/knowledge.php?id=42

    The sort of volume of some moves they prescribe is also dangerous – e.g. the huge numbers of kipping pullups wreck shoulders.

    The Crossfit messages board has a section on injuries and lots of people damage themselves on their programmes.

    As I said I really appreciate a lot of what Crossfit has brought but I think it is not the be all and end all.

  2. I totally agree, Chris. Specialization in an endeavor is a whole other animal. You’ve got to choose the right tool for the purpose at hand.

  3. Keith,

    Truer words never spoken. I think what incites a lot of the in-fighting between training camps comes down to the concept of individual preferences vs. universal applicability – just because you prefer a particular poison doesn’t mean it’s best for all purposes. When you’ve got a hammer, everything starts looking like nails.

    In the meantime, one thing I think everyone loses sight of is that preference doesn’t necessarily imply exclusivity. Just because I have crossfit.com bookmarked on my browser doesn’t mean I un-bookmark t-nation.com. And Supertraining sits on my bookshelf right next to an Ellington Darden book.

    One truism, however: You can’t argue with results. So long as you can get them, everything else is a matter of preference.

  4. Keith, a beautiful post that illustrates that at least some of us who contribute to the internet are thinkers and not merely critics.

    I am a CrossFit affiliate and therefore may be seen as biased in my views. So take my thoughts with a grain of salt if you wish.

    My biggest issue with Boyle and Co’s rant was that it had little grip of reality. Even if they were attacking 24 Hour Fitness with such uninformed gusto I would have sided with the Globo Gym.

    Undercurrents were (are) definitely at play. As CrossFit gains in popularity you can expect to see a lot more attacks. Anything that is not understood is ridiculed and attacked before being accepted.

    Regards, Adam Stanecki.

    • I’ll consider any idea and/or argument as long as it is both coherent and substantive; neither of which can be said of Boyle’s “ideas” — at least on the CrossFit issue. And I would add, too, that anything garnering increasingly large portions of market-share from the “establishment” will certainly be the recipient of some ill-will from the said “establishment” 🙂

    • I think it is a great thing that anything that isn’t understood should be ridiculed and attacked before being accepted. That’s how we initially keep ignorance out. If it makes it past the scrutiny, then it should be taken into consideration of being accepted. Welcome to any field that has to do with science.

  5. Hi there,

    the point Charles Poliquin makes about the ineffectiveness in developing athletic potential with the CrossFit system is that CrossFit training does not follow strength principles which have been evidenced through thousands and thousands of studies. It’s not his opinion nor is it a jibe at the “CrossFit” family because of decreased market share. No one doubts that CrossFit can improve the fitness of an average sedentary adult – but then again, so can practically any physical activity. The idea of science is that it attempts to take out the subjectivity in trying to understand how a process works and for what reason. Charles Poliquin was coming from an objective scientific approach. Maybe you should brush up on yours,

    D.

    • It is my opinion that training — either athletes or the “lay” public (indifferent of goals) — is part objective (science-driven) and part subjective (art/empirical); to rely totally on one to the exclusion of the other is, in my mind, naive. In fact, I would personally give more sway to the experienced/empirical — usually science simply confirms what we already “know” (empirically) as coaches to be true. But that’s another argument. My beef with CP (who I otherwise admire, btw), is simply that he doesn’t (or won’t) recognize the validity of the Crossfit system for GPP. It’s my impression that CP’s knock of Crossfit is driven more by economic concerns than by his academic dismissal of the system as a decent GPP program for decently conditioned, non-competitive athletes. Again, it’s an impression. I am, if nothing else, though, open-minded, and if some one can argue convincingly to the contrary, I’m all ears.

  6. If I may, I just want to be frankly honest… A big reason people (including me) don’t like crossfit are because of the people involved. You folks walk around and talk about the same shit, you look alike, you have the same demeanor, wear the same “skins” shit when you lift expecting to crush new PR’s, you say dude and bro more times than a pothead surfer on 4/20, and you have this conservative/Christian undertone that fucking stinks. Call me a bad american, but who gives three fucks if y’all train the military, cops, or firefighters? It’s like y’all say it because you want a pat on the back. Crossfitters walk around like their shit doesn’t stink. I just don’t like they way most of you carry yourselves. Stop wearing your ego on your sleeve and just do your fucking job without blogging every fucking day about how you assclowns did 30 snatches and 500 bodyweight squats. You know what, be a constant student at your practice. Read, research, and learn to appreciate other coaches who may say stupid shit, but that have some great things you can take away. Who care’s if Mike Boyle thinks yall are slap dicks. That doesn’t mean you can’t take away something significant from his experience or knowledge. Shit, I can even take something away from you douche-nuggets. Hence, some of the crossfit articles on my desk.

    I am a competitive weightlifter and I think it’s great that the sport is getting more publicity, but I swear, if I hear your stupid crossfit lingo one more time at a meet, I’m going to blow my fucking brains out. The only thing you fucktards do is make hot women… keep up the good work on that.

    I was at a collegiate gymnastics meet last night, and I saw two crossdouches who were trying to do handstands and handstand push ups off to the side during the meet. Really?? Yeah, you guys are soooo fucking cool.

    P.S. this is to Greg Glassman…. A fucking 5 year old could have come up with the concept of crossfit, you simple fuck. If the workouts are scaleable, get of your lazy ass and at least look the part. Shit, I will at least give credit to boyle for demonstrating his exercises.

    My shit does stink, I don’t know it all, and I am a naive/ignorant person. And I know not everyone falls into this stereotype, but I can have my frustrations just as boyle, glassman, poliquin, or whoever else. I’m sure one of you crossfitters, or a person without an incredible frustration will refute everything I just said and my time will be wasted. Oh well. At least people are getting healthy, regardless of what they do. And to the people that I have met who I do have a great respect for. For example, I do dig me some Kelly Starrett. I’ve been having a jones for him and his knowledge. Crossfit is not the end all be all.

    Fuck off Crossfit

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